TREK THE SAHARA

CPL LAUREN WOODHALL: FROM 9-14 NOVEMBER, I TREKKED 128KM ACROSS THE SAHARA DESERT IN AID OF THE RAF ASSOCIATION (RAFA).

The trek was the most amazing experience and I would recommend anyone to have a go at this type of challenge which may only come once in a lifetime. Not only will it challenge you, but the benefits support our own people through RAFA.

DAY 1 – The first day, I met with 15 other charity trekkers at Heathrow airport – all of us representing different charities. None of us knew each other, so it was very exciting and we all had lots to talk about! We flew via Casablanca to Ouarzazate and spent the first night with our Desert Guides.

DAY 2 – Breakfast at 0600, we set off towards our starting point at 0700. Throughout the 6-hour drive, we stopped in different villages to give out sweets to children and buy our traditional headscarves to wear. Arriving at our start point, we were met by camels and their owners, who would guide us through the desert. We trekked for 4 hours before sleeping under the stars.

DAY 3 – Getting up and ready in the desert at 0630 is hard due to there being no light until the sun rises at around 0730! Breakfast was pancakes cooked over the fire, setting us up for a trekking day of 8 hours in 40°c. Today was also Remembrance Day, we held a two minutes’ silence after saying the remembrance prayer as a group. We had vegetables and cous cous for dinner, before we slept out under the stars again.

DAY 4 – Up at 0630 again, we trekked another 6 hours on day four. We finished trekking early to watch the sunset from the highest dune in the Sahara – Dune Zaher. The view was incredible. The dune took around 40 minutes to climb and 10 minutes to descend as we rolled down! In the evening, we had to put up tents to sleep in due to an incoming sand storm, which hit us at about 2AM!

DAY 5 – SANDSTORM!!! We had 5 hours of trekking in the sandstorm – which we had to wrap up for to protect our skin from the sand. You could barely open your eyes, even with sunglasses on, without getting sand in them! A lot of us wore ski goggles! We reached the finish line at around 1500, before driving back to stay in a hotel near the airport, as a treat, on the last night.

DAY 6 – On the final day, we were up at 0400 to catch our flight at 0700. Again going via Casablanca, we landed back into Heathrow at 1500. It was sad to say goodbye to a team we had all grown to love being a part of, but we all had amazing memories to take home – as well as a lot of unwanted sand in our bags.

I had the most incredible experience in the Sahara Desert, and it was made 10 times better knowing that all the money raised was going to such a great cause. The RAF Association is the charity that actively looks after the welfare of the RAF family, giving help in times of need to everyone who serves in the RAF, and their dependants, past and present, now and always.

The charity provides support to personnel and families affected by service commitments – past and present. This includes the availability of “WINGS HOLIDAYS” for families to spend valuable time together with little or no cost.

The charity also provides the facilities to create “STORY BOOK WINGS”, voice recorded stories for children who struggle when their parent is away from home – the stories are recorded by their parents and sent home on a CD.

Much more is provided by the RAFA, so please, if you are interested, look it up and find out why I am raising money for this amazing charity.

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